More action needed to reduce our salt intake

Salt Awareness Week 2019

This year is the 20th year of Salt Awareness Week. From the 4th - 10th of March 2019 #SaltAwarenessWeek will be raising awareness of the impact of salt on health and that we should be eating less salt. The focus of this year's Salt Awareness Week is on the need for more action on salt reduction. As a population we are still eating too much salt. Estimates from the Department of Health indicate that over 8,000 premature deaths from heart attack and stroke could be prevented with a reduction in average salt intake from 8g to 6g per day.

Industry’s efforts to reduce salt

The UK Food Standards Agency salt reduction programme undertaken between 2003 and 2010 successfully reduced the average salt intake of the population from 9.5g a day in 2000/2001 to 8.6g a day in 2008 (Wyness et al. 2012). In 2014, salt intakes had reduced to 8.0g a day.

Salt reduction targets for industry, set under the Public Health Responsibility Deal in 2014 were due to be met by the end of 2017. In December 2018, Public Health England published a report of industry progress towards meeting these targets. The report showed that just over half (52%) of all the average salt reduction target set were met by 2017. Retailers made more progress than manufacturers towards achieving the targets, meeting 73% of these compared with manufacturers meeting 37%.

The Government stated in the ‘Prevention is better than cure’ document (published Nov 2018), that new salt reduction plans are due to be announced by Easter 2019.

Salt Awareness

1. Salt is salt

Pink Himalayan salt may sound more exotic and perhaps even healthier than table salt, but no matter how expensive, or whether it comes in grains or crystals, or from the sea or Himalayas, all salts have a relatively similar sodium content as table salt. With the exception of some alternatives to sodium salts (such as potassium salt) all salt is high in sodium, which increases your blood pressure, and this increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and several other health conditions.

2. Adjust your taste buds

When you first reduce the salt in your food it may initially taste a bit bland. However, stick with it, and within a few weeks your taste buds will begin to adapt and become far more sensitive to salt. This means that you’ll be able to detect salt much more easily at lower levels.

3. How can I make my food taste nice without using salt?

There are lots of ingredients you can use to add flavour without using salt. Try out fresh or dried herbs, spices, black pepper, chilli or lemon to excite your taste buds. Seaweed seasoning can also add a savoury ‘umami’ flavour to dishes. Here are some suggestions for great tasting food, without using salt:

4. Get salt savvy with the free FoodSwitch App

The FoodSwitch UK app allows you to scan the barcodes of food and drink products and instantly see whether they are high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in fat, saturates, sugars and salt. The app is designed to show you the healthiest options available, from any store. You can use the app while you are in the supermarket, or planning your next shop by scanning products you have at home.

5. What to look out for on labels

About 75% of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy. Checking the product label enables you to see how much salt you are eating. The picture below indicates the figures to look out for to determine if the food contains a high, medium or low amount of salt.

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